Nathan Irving "Nat" Hentoff (June 10, 1925 – January 7, 2017) was an
American historian, novelist, jazz and country music critic, and
syndicated columnist for United Media. Hentoff was a columnist for The
Village Voice from 1958 to 2009. Following his departure from The
Village Voice, Hentoff became a senior fellow at the Cato Institute,
continued writing his music column for The Wall Street Journal, which
published his works until his death. He often wrote on First Amendment
issues, vigorously defending the freedom of the press.
Hentoff was formerly a columnist for: Down Beat, JazzTimes, Legal
Times, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Progressive,
Editor & Publisher and Free Inquiry. He was a staff writer for The
New Yorker, and his writings was also published in: The New York
Times, Jewish World Review, The Atlantic, The New Republic,
Commonweal, and Enciclopedia dello Spettacolo.
1 Early life
3 Political views, commentary, and activism
3.1 Social and individual freedoms
3.3 Middle East
3.4 "War on terror"
3.5 Presidential politics
4 Awards and honors
5 Personal life
6.5 Edited volumes
8 External links
Hentoff was born on June 10, 1925, in a Jewish family in Boston,
Massachusetts  the firstborn child of Simon, a traveling
salesman, and Lena (née Katzenberg). As a teen, he attended
Boston Latin School and worked for
Frances Sweeney on the Boston
City Reporter, investigating antisemitic hate groups. Sweeney was a
major influence on Hentoff; his memoir,
Boston Boy, is dedicated to
her. He received his
Bachelor of Arts degree with highest
honors, in 1946 from Northeastern University. That same
year he enrolled for graduate study at Harvard University. In
1950, he attended
Sorbonne University in Paris on a Fulbright
Hentoff began his career in broadcast journalism while also hosting a
weekly jazz program on WMEX, a
Boston radio station. In the 1940s,
he hosted two radio shows on WMEX: JazzAlbum and From Bach To
Bartók. He continued to present a jazz program on WMEX into the
early 1950s, and during that period was an announcer on the program
Jazz on WGBH-FM. By the late 1950s, he was co-hosting the
program The Scope of
WBAI-FM in New York City. He went on
to write many books on jazz and politics.
In 1952, Hentoff joined
Down Beat magazine as a columnist, and
from 1953 through 1957, he was an associate editor. He was
fired in 1957 allegedly for trying to hire an African-American
Hentoff co-authored Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of
Jazz by the
Men Who Made It (1955) with Nat Shapiro. The book features
interviews with jazz musicians such as
Dizzy Gillespie and Duke
Ellington. Hentoff co-founded The
Jazz Review in 1958,
a magazine that he co-edited with Martin Williams until 1961. He
also served as the A&R director of the short-lived jazz label
Candid Records in 1960, which released albums by Charles Mingus, Cecil
Taylor and Max Roach, among others.
Around the same time, Hentoff began freelance writing for publications
like Esquire, Playboy, Harper’s, The New York Herald Tribune,
Commonweal, and The Reporter. From 1958 to 2009, he wrote weekly
columns on education, civil liberties, politics, and capital
punishment, among other topics for The Village Voice.
Hentoff wrote for many publications, including The New Yorker
The Washington Post
The Washington Post (1984–2000), and The Washington
Times. He worked with the
Jazz Foundation of America to help many
American jazz and blues musicians in need. He wrote many articles
to draw attention to the plight of America's pioneering jazz and blues
musicians, which were published in the Wall Street Journal and The
Beginning in February 2008, Hentoff was a weekly contributing
columnist at WorldNetDaily.com. In January 2009, The Village
Voice, which had regularly published Hentoff's commentary and
criticism for fifty years, announced that he had been laid off.
He then went on to write for publications such as United Features,
Jewish World Review, and The Wall Street Journal. Hentoff joined
the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, as a senior fellow in
In 2013, a biographical film about Hentoff, entitled The Pleasures of
Being Out of Step explored his career in jazz and as a First Amendment
advocate. The independent documentary, produced and directed by David
L. Lewis, won the Grand Jury prize in the Metropolis competition
DOC NYC festival and played in theaters across the
Political views, commentary, and activism
Hentoff espoused generally liberal views on domestic policy and civil
liberties, but in the 1980s, he began articulating more socially
conservative positions—opposition to abortion, voluntary euthanasia,
and the selective medical treatment of severely disabled infants.
Hentoff argued that a consistent life ethic should be the viewpoint of
a genuine civil libertarian, arguing that all human rights are at risk
when the rights of any one group of people are diminished, that human
rights are interconnected, and people deny others' human rights at
Social and individual freedoms
Hentoff was known as a civil libertarian, free speech activist,
anti-death penalty advocate, and anti-abortion advocate. He was
described in the
American Conservative magazine as “the only Jewish,
atheist, pro-life, libertarian hawk in America.”
While at one time a long-time supporter of the American Civil
Liberties Union, Hentoff became a vocal critic of the organization in
1999 for its advocacy of government-enforced university and workplace
speech codes. He served on the board of advisors for the
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, another civil liberties
group. Hentoff's book Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee
outlines his views on free speech and excoriates those whom he feels
favor censorship "in any form."
Hentoff agitated against the
Vietnam War and against the United
States' participation in it, although as he stated he had been a
"hardcore anti-communist" since the age of 15 because he had "no
illusions about the corrupt, undemocratic government of South
Vietnam." After the war's end, Hentoff, along with other Vietnam
war dissidents such as Joan Baez,
Ginetta Sagan of Amnesty
International, and others repeatedly protested what he called "the
horrifying abuses of human rights [committed] by the Vietnamese
Hentoff was a believer in the persistence of anti-semitism and a
supporter of the existence of the state of Israel. Yet, he often
criticized Israeli policies, both on issues of domestic freedoms, such
as the absence of due process for Palestinians, and on issues of
foreign policy, such as the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. His opposition
to Israel's invasion of
Lebanon led three rabbis to symbolically
excommunicate Hentoff from the religion of Judaism. He commented,
"I would have told them about my life as a heretic, a tradition I keep
precisely because I am a Jew.”
He was supportive of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
"War on terror"
Hentoff was critical of the
Clinton administration for the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. He also
criticized the Bush administration for "authoritarian" policies such
Patriot Act and other civil liberties restrictions legislated
through invoking the ostensible need for homeland security.
An ardent critic of the G. W. Bush administration's expansion of
presidential power, in 2008 Hentoff called for the new president to
deal with the "noxious residue of the Bush-Cheney war against
terrorism". According to Hentoff, among the casualties of that "war"
have been "survivors, if they can be found, of CIA secret prisons
('black sites'); victims of CIA kidnapping renditions; and American
citizens locked up indefinitely as 'unlawful enemy combatants'".
He advocated the formal prosecution in court of members of the Bush
administration, such as lawyer John Yoo, for war crimes.
Hentoff stated that while he had been prepared to enthusiastically
Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, his view
changed after looking into Obama's voting record on abortion. During
President Obama's first year, Hentoff praised him for ending policies
of CIA renditions, but criticized him for failing to fully end George
W. Bush's practice of "state torture" of prisoners.
In a May 2014 column, titled "My Pro-Constitution Choice for
President", Hentoff voiced his support for Kentucky Senator Rand
Paul's potential 2016 run for president. He cited Paul's support for
civil liberties, particularly his stand against the indefinite
detention clauses in the
National Defense Authorization Act as well as
his opposition to the Obama administration's use of drones against
American citizens. Hentoff later rescinded his endorsement of Paul
in light of the senator's support for normalizing relations with Cuba
and his failure to support the complete annulment of the Patriot
Awards and honors
Hentoff was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 1972. He won the American
Silver Gavel Award in 1980 for his columns on law
and criminal justice. In 1983, he was awarded the American Library
Association's Imroth Award for Intellectual Freedom. In 1985, he
received an honorary
Doctorate of Laws
Doctorate of Laws from the Northeastern
University. In 1995, he was honored with the National Press
Foundation's Award in recognition of his lifetime distinguished
contributions to journalism. In 2004, Hentoff was named one
of six NEA
Jazz Masters by the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts,
thus becoming the first nonmusician in history to win this award.
That same year, the
Boston Latin School honored him as alumnus of the
year. In 2005, he was one of the first recipients of the Human
Life Foundation's "Great Defender of Life" award.
Hentoff grew up attending an Orthodox synagogue in Boston. He recalled
that as a youth, he would travel around the city with his father
High Holidays to listen to various cantors and compare
notes on their performances. He said cantors made "sacred texts
compellingly clear to the heart," and he collected their
recordings. In later life, Hentoff was an atheist, and has
sardonically described himself as "a member of the Proud and Ancient
Order of Stiff-Necked Jewish Atheists". He expressed sympathy
Peace Now movement.
Hentoff married three times, first to Miriam Sargent in 1950; the
marriage was childless and the couple divorced that same year. His
second wife was Trudi Bernstein, whom he married on September 2, 1954,
and with whom he had two children, Miranda and Jessica. He
divorced his second wife in August 1959. On August 15, 1959, he
married his third wife, Margot Goodman, with whom he had two children:
Nicholas and Thomas. The couple remained together until he died of
natural causes at his Manhattan apartment on January 7, 2017.
Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of
Jazz as Told by the Men who Made
it, with Nat Shapiro. ISBN 978-0-486-21726-0 (1955)
Jazz Makers, with Nat Shapiro. ISBN 0-8371-7098-2 (1957)
Jazz Life. ISBN 0-306-80088-8 (1961)
Peace Agitator: The Story of A. J. Muste. ISBN 0-9608096-0-0
The New Equality. ISBN 978-0-670-00185-9 (1964)
Our Children Are Dying (with John Holt). ISBN 978-0-939266-43-2
A Doctor Among the Addicts: The Story of Marie Nyswander.
ISBN 978-0-528-81946-9 (1968)
A Political Life: The Education of
John V. Lindsay
John V. Lindsay (1969)
Journey into Jazz. ISBN 978-0-698-30206-8 (1971)
Jazz Is. ISBN 978-0-7567-5045-9 (1976)
Does Anybody Give a Damn?:
Nat Hentoff on Education.
ISBN 978-0-394-40933-7 (Random House; 1977)
The First Freedom: The Tumultuous History of Free Speech in America.
ISBN 978-0-385-29643-4 (1980)
American Heroes: In and Out of School. ISBN 978-0-385-29565-9
John Cardinal O'Connor: At the Storm Center of a Changing American
Catholic Church. ISBN 0-684-18944-5 (1988)
Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right
Relentlessly Censor Each Other. ISBN 0-06-099510-6 (1993)
Listen to the Stories:
Nat Hentoff on
Jazz and Country Music.
ISBN 0-06-019047-7 (1995)
Living the Bill of Rights: How to Be an Authentic American.
ISBN 0-520-21981-3 (1999)
The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance.
ISBN 1-58322-621-4 (2004)
American Music Is. ISBN 978-0-306-81351-1 (2004)
Jazz Country. ISBN 978-0-440-94203-0 (1965)
Call the Keeper. ISBN 978-0-670-20014-6 (1966)
Onwards! ISBN 978-0-671-20000-8(1968)
I'm Really Dragged But Nothing Gets Me Down (1968)
This School is Driving Me Crazy. ISBN 978-0-440-98702-4 (1976)
Does This School Have Capital Punishment? ISBN 0-435-12329-7
Blues for Charlie Darwin. ISBN 978-0-68801-260-1 (1982)
The Day They Came To Arrest The Book. ISBN 978-0-440-91814-1
The Man from Internal Affairs. ISBN 978-0-89296-141-2 (1985)
Booknotes interview with Hentoff on Speaking Freely, October 19,
Boston Boy: Growing Up With
Jazz and Other Rebellious Passions.
ISBN 0-9679675-2-X (1986)
Speaking Freely: A Memoir. ISBN 978-0-679-43647-8 (1997)
Nat Hentoff Reader. ISBN 0-306-81084-0 (2001)
Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of
Jazz by the Men Who Made It (with
Nat Shapiro). ISBN 978-0-486-21726-0 (1955)
Black Anti-Semitism and Jewish Racism. ISBN 978-0-8052-0280-9
Jazz: New Perspectives on the History of
Jazz by Twelve of the World's
Jazz Critics and Scholars. ISBN 0-306-80002-0 (with
Albert McCarthy) (1975)
^ Hentoff, Nat (7 January 2009). "Nat Hentoff's Last Column: The
50-Year Veteran Says Goodbye". Village Voice. Retrieved 8 January
^ Swain, Carol (2003). Contemporary voices of white nationalism in
America. Cambridge, UK New York: Cambridge University Press.
p. 83. ISBN 978-0-521-01693-3. Note: this quote is
from the authors' introductory essay, not from the interviews.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa McFadden,
Robert D. (7 January 2017). "Nat Hentoff, Journalist and Social
Commentator, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 January
^ Current Biography Yearbook. 47. H. W. Wilson Co. 1986.
pp. 221–222. Nathan Irving Hentoff was born in Boston,
Massachusetts on 10 June 1925, the first-born child of Simon Hentoff,
a haberdasher, and Lena [Katzenberg] Hentoff.
^ Polner, Murray (1982). American Jewish Biographies (illustrated
ed.). Facts on File. p. 168. ISBN 9780871964625. Nathan
Irving Hentoff was born in
Boston to Simon, a traveling salesman, and
Lena (Katzenberg) Hentoff.
^ a b c d e "Nat Hentoff, journalist who wrote on jazz and civil
liberties, dies at 91". The Washington Post. 8 January 2017. Retrieved
9 January 2017.
^ Hentoff, Nat (2012).
Boston Boy: Growing up with
Jazz and Other
Rebellious Passions. Paul Dry Books.
^ "Ask the Globe". The
Boston Globe. July 30, 1998.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Nat Hentoff". The Washington Post.
1998. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
^ Applegate, Edd (2009). Advocacy Journalists: A Biographical
Dictionary of Writers and Editors. Scarecrow Press. p. 99.
^ a b Drew, Bernard Alger (2002). 100 More Popular Young Adult
Authors: Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies (illustrated ed.).
Libraries Unlimited. p. 145. ISBN 9781563089206.
^ Finkelman, Paul (2013). Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties.
Routledge. p. 760. ISBN 9781135947057.
^ a b c d "Nat Hentoff, Renowned Columnist and
Jazz Critic, Dead at
91". Rolling Stone. 8 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
^ a b c d "Liberty legend
Nat Hentoff dies at 91". WND. 7 January
2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
^ New York Times, July 3, 1958, p. 49.
^ Down Beat, February 8, 1952, p. 1.
^ a b c d "America Under Barack Obama: An Interview with Nat Hentoff".
The Rutherford Institute. 11 December 2009. Retrieved 9 January
^ a b c "Nat Hentoff, columnist, critic and giant of jazz writing,
dies aged 91". The Guardian. 8 January 2009. Retrieved 9 January
^ a b c "Muere Nat Hentoff, histórico cronista del jazz". El Pais. 8
January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
^ Jarrett, Michael (2016). Pressed for All Time: Producing the Great
Jazz Albums from Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday to Miles Davis and
Diana Krall. UNC Press Books. p. xxv.
^ Hentoff, Nat (15 January 2009). "How
Jazz Helped Hasten the
Civil-Rights Movement". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 28 June
^ Hentoff, Nat (November 14, 2006). "Keeping
Jazz Musicians Alive".
Archived from the original on October 5, 2009.
WorldNetDaily – A Free Press for a Free People". Wnd.com.
Retrieved March 3, 2011. [permanent dead link]
^ a b "Having Writ for 50 Years, Hentoff Moves On From The Voice". The
New York Times. 8 January 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
Nat Hentoff Joins the Cato Institute". Cato.org. February 4, 2009.
Retrieved March 3, 2011.
^ Scheib, Ronnie (11 July 2014). "Film Review: 'The Pleasures of Being
Out of Step'". Variety. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
^ De Coster, Ramzi (21 November 2013). "'A World Not Ours' and 'The
Pleasures of Being Out of Step' Take Home Grand Jury Prizes at DOC
NYC". IndieWire. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
^ a b "
Nat Hentoff on Abortion". Swissnet.ai.mit.edu. Retrieved March
^ a b "Nat Hentoff, Memory Eternal". National Review. 7 January 2017.
Retrieved 9 January 2017.
^ "ACLU better clean up its act". Jewishworldreview.com. September 20,
1999. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
^ Keene, David (9 January 2017). "A taste for authentic liberalism".
The Washington Times. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
^ a b "Vietnam's state terrorism",
Jewish World Review by Nat Hentoff,
4 February 2002
^ "As I've said before, if a loudspeaker goes off and a voice says,
'All Jews gather in Times Square,' it could never surprise me." Amy
Wilentz, in "How the War Came Home", New York, February 2012, quoting
Nat Hentoff column in The Village Voice
^ "Due Process in Israel" by Nat Hentoff, The Washington Post, 26 June
^ a b "Columnist Nat Hentoff, a secular rabbi excommunicated for his
activism, dies at 91" by Hillel Italie, The Times of Israel, 8 January
Nat Hentoff Interview" (PDF). www.publicrecordmedia.org.
Nat Hentoff (November 12, 2008). "Caged Citizen Will Test President
Obama". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on October 14,
2010. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
Nat Hentoff (December 3, 2008). "Obama's First 100 Days". The
Village Voice. Archived from the original on November 13, 2011.
Retrieved March 3, 2011.
Nat Hentoff (January 12, 2010). "George W. Obama". The Village
Voice. Archived from the original on March 5, 2011. Retrieved March 3,
^ Hentoff, Nat (20 May 2014). "My pro-Constitution choice for
president". WorldNetDaily. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
^ Strom, Ron (28 June 2015). "Recovering
Nat Hentoff sounds off on
Rand Paul". WorldNetDaily. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
^ "List of Guggenheim Fellows". Guggenheim Fellowship. Retrieved March
^ a b c "Nat Hentoff". Cato Institute.
Nat Hentoff (January 7, 2009). ""Nat Hentoff's Last Column", Village
Voice, January 6, 2009". Archived from the original on February 14,
2011. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
^ "Awards & Recognition".
Boston Latin School.
^ Hentoff, Nat (2010). At the
Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Jazz
Scene. University of California Press. p. 194.
^ Pattison, Mark (12 January 2017). "
Nat Hentoff was self-described
pro-life Jewish atheist". Catholic Herald. Archived from the original
on 29 June 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
^ Nat Hentoff, "The Soul Music of the Synagogue," The Wall Street
Journal, August 24, 1985.
^ Joyce, Robert W. (Fall 1999). "PLLDF Century Dinner" (PDF). The
Pro-Life Legal Defense Fund Newsletter. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
^ "Having Writ for 50 Years, Hentoff Moves On from The Voice", New
York Times, January 6, 2009.
^ Hentoff, Nat, John Cardinal O'Connor: at the Storm Center of a
Changing American Catholic Church, p. 7 (Charles Scribner's Sons,
^ "Nat Hentoff," in Murray Polner, American Jewish Biographies (New
York: Facts on File, Inc., Lakeville Press, 1982), pp. 168–9.
^ a b c d Laurie Collier, Joyce Nakamura, eds. (1993). Major Authors
and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults: A Selection of
Sketches from Something about the Author. 3. Gale Research.
p. 1101. ISBN 978-0-8103-7384-6. CS1 maint: Uses
editors parameter (link)
^ a b c d e "Nat Hentoff, a jazz critic, free speech advocate, and
Boston Boy' memoirist, dies at 91".
Boston Globe. 8 January 2017.
Retrieved 9 January 2017.
^ Hentoff, Nat (1987). American Heroes: In and Out of School.
Delacorte Press. ISBN 978-0-385-29565-9.
^ Hentoff, Nat (2004). The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering
Resistance (illustrated, reprint ed.). Seven Stories Press.
^ Hentoff, Nat (2004). American Music is (reprint ed.). Da Capo Press.
^ Hentoff, Nat (1968). Onwards!: a novel. Simon and Schuster.
^ Hentoff, Nat (1968). I'm really dragged but nothing gets me down.
Simon & Schuster.
^ Hentoff, Nat (2001). The
Nat Hentoff Reader. Da Capo Press.
^ Baldwin, James; Nat, Hentoff (1969). Black anti-Semitism and Jewish
racism (reprint ed.). R. W. Baron.
^ Hentoff, Nat; McCarthy, Albert J. (1975). Jazz: New Perspectives on
the History of
Jazz by Twelve of the World's Foremost
Jazz Critics and
Scholars (illustrated, reprint ed.). Perseus Books Group.
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